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FILE: Dec. 30, 2012: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid walks to a closed-door meeting with fellow Democrats on Capitol Hill.AP
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is allowing some staffers to keep their health insurance instead of making them buy it through an ObamaCare exchange, although he was one of the strongest Capitol Hill supporters of the 2010 law.
The Nevada Democrat is exercising his discretion under the president’s signature law to designate which staffers can keep their federal insurance plan and which must now purchase a policy through the District of Columbia’s health-care exchange.
However, he purportedly is the only top congressional leader to exercise that option, which resulted in sharp criticism Wednesday from Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, perhaps the staunchest ObamaCare opponent on the Hill.
“Sen. Reid’s decision to exempt his staff … is the clearest example yet of ObamaCare’s failures and Washington hypocrisy,” he said. “His staff worked to pass it and continue to promote it, now they don’t want to be part of it because it’s a disaster.”
The distinction is between personnel staff, forced onto the exchange, and leadership and committee staff, who are allowed to keep their federal plan.
However, drawing a distinction is difficult because some duties overlap,” a Reid staffer told Fox News.
The staffer could not give a breakdown. But Reid is going on the exchange and says he is happy with its options.
An amendment to ObamaCare by Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley forced staffers onto the exchanges, but additional changes allow for some flexibility. Still, the final rules, put forth by the Office of Personnel Management, leave some discretion with the lawmaker.
“The only fair path forward is to repeal ObamaCare, in its entirety, for everyone,” Cruz added.
Aug 8, 2013: Director of the National Security Agency (NSA) Gen. Keith B. Alexander, left, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) John O. Brennan, center, and director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Robert S. Mueller, right, attend a forum during the International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) on at Fordham University in New York.AP
The NSA collects nearly 5 billion records a day on the locations of cell phones overseas to create a huge database that stores information from hundreds of millions of devices, including those belonging to some Americans abroad, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
Documents provided to the Post by NSA leaker Edward Snowden detail how this database is able to track people worldwide and map out their relationships with others.
The NSA inadvertently gathers U.S. location records, along with the billions of other records it collects by tapping into worldwide mobile network cables, the Post reported.
The database and projects designed to analyze it have created a mass surveillance tool for the NSA, allowing it to monitor individuals in a way never seen before.
NSA analysts can look at the data and track an individual’s movements throughout the world. They can then map out the person’s relationships with others and expose previously unknown correspondence.
The agency collects the large amount of cell phone data in order to find out who is interacting with targets the agency is already tracking, even though most of the records collected are not relevant to national security.
The number of Americans who are tracked as part of the data collection overseas is unclear from the Snowden documents, and a senior intelligence official told the Post it is “awkward for us to try to provide any specific numbers.”
U.S. officials told the Post the programs that collect cell phone data are strictly geared towards tracking foreign intelligence targets, and are not against the law.
The Associated Press contributed to this report
The BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil describes hearing “continuous gunfire” throughout the morning
A series of attacks at Yemen’s defence ministry have left at least 29 dead and more than 70 hurt, officials say.
A suicide car bomb blew up at the gates of the complex in Sanaa’s Bab al-Yaman district, at the entrance to the old city, and a gunbattle followed at a hospital inside.
At least two foreign medical staff are among the dead, medical sources say.
Yemeni security forces are fighting regional rebels and al-Qaeda, while combating lawlessness and army splits.
Defence Minister Mohammed Nasser is currently on a visit to Washington.
No group has said it carried out Thursday’s attack.
Correspondents say it bears the hallmarks of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
However, one government minister has blamed people linked to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Officials said the situation was under control and most of the gunmen had been killed.
“The attack took place shortly after working hours started at the ministry when a suicide bomber drove a car into the gate,” a ministry source said, quoted by Reuters.
The blast was heard hundreds of metres away.
“The explosion was very violent, the whole place shook because of it and plumes of smoke rose from the building,” an eyewitness told the agency.
Officials said a second car followed whose occupants opened fire at the complex, and a battle ensued involving gunmen in military uniforms.
The gunmen occupied a hospital at the complex, they added, but security forces later regained control of the building, which was badly damaged.
“The assailants took advantage of some construction work that is taking place to carry out this criminal act,” the defence ministry said.
They were said to be armed with assault rifles, hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenades.
“Most” of the gunmen were killed, officials said, but it was not clear how many were involved.
However, the BBC’s Shaimaa Khalil in Sanaa says there was continuous shooting throughout the morning and some gunfire is continuing.
She describes Bab al-Yaman as a busy, bustling area with many shops.
The incident comes aid tight security in the last few weeks following a series of hit-and-run attacks on officials by militants on motorbikes, blamed on AQAP.
There were a large number of checkpoints and armoured vehicles on the streets even before the attacks, our correspondent says.
The country has been going through a painful transition since Mr Saleh was forced from office in 2011.
Presidential elections are due to be held in February 2014.
NEW YORK (AP) — The engineer driving the commuter train that went off the rails in New York City last weekend has been suspended without pay.
A spokesman for Metro-North Railroad said Thursday that William Rockefeller is ‘‘out of service, and not being paid.’’
According to his lawyer and union representative, Rockefeller experienced a momentary loss of awareness as he zoomed down the tracks.
Four people were killed and more than 60 others injured when the train derailed inches from the river in the Bronx early Sunday.
© Copyright 2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
Almost five billion mobile phone location records are logged by the NSA every day, reports the Washington Post.
The data is said to help the NSA track individuals, and map who they know, to aid the agency’s anti-terror work.
The “dragnet surveillance” was condemned by digital rights groups who called for the NSA’s snooping efforts to be reined in.
The news comes as Microsoft plans to use more encryption to thwart NSA spying on it and its customers.
The huge database built up by the NSA (National Security Agency) keeps an eye on “hundreds of millions” of mobile phones, said the Post, adding that it let the agency map movements and relationships in ways that were “previously unimaginable”.
It added that the vast programme potentially surpassed any other NSA project in terms of its impact on privacy. Information about the programme was in papers released to the Post by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The spying agency is said to have accumulated so much data, about 27 terabytes according to leaked papers seen by the Post, that it was “outpacing” the NSA’s ability to analyse the information in a timely fashion.
The analysis, via a computer system called Co-Traveler, was necessary as only a tiny fraction of 1% of the data gathered was actually useful in its anti-terror work, said the paper. The analysis is so detailed that it can be used to thwart attempts to hide from scrutiny by people who use disposable phones or only use a handset briefly before switching it off.
The vast majority of the information gathered is said to come from taps installed on mobile phone networks and used the basic location-information that networks log as people move around. Analysing this data helps the NSA work out which devices are regularly in close proximity and, by implication, exposes a potential connection between the owners of those handsets.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it was “staggering” that the NSA could mount such a vast location-logging system without any public debate. The “dragnet surveillance” broke US obligations that require it to respect the privacy of foreigners and Americans.
“The government should be targeting its surveillance at those suspected of wrong-doing, not assembling massive associational databases that, by their very nature, record the movements of a huge number of innocent people,” it added.
The steady flow of information about the NSA’s surveillance work has led Microsoft to take steps to protect itself and its customers from unwarranted scrutiny, it said in a blogpost.
Brad Smith, Microsoft legal counsel, said government snooping was now as much of a security problem as computer viruses and other cyber-attacks.
In response, Mr Smith said, Microsoft was expanding its use of encryption; would fight legal orders that stop it telling customers when their data is being sought and would allow a closer look at the code it develops to show there were no backdoors built in.
ESPN.com news services
In addition, the league said it will consider a forfeiture of draft choices for the Steelers because Tomlin’s conduct affected a play on the field.
The $100,000 fine is tied for the second-largest reported fine ever given to an NFL coach (2007 Bill Belichick — $500,000).
The league said Tomlin’s actions — he was standing on the white stripe that borders the playing field and took a step onto the field during Jacoby Jones‘ kickoff return — should have resulted in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“As I stated yesterday, I take full responsibility for my actions, and I apologize for causing negative attention to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization,” Tomlin said in a statement. “I accept the penalty that I received. I will no longer address this issue as I am preparing for an important game this Sunday against the Miami Dolphins.”
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he respected “the process” and “everybody involved.”
“We certainly respect the Steelers and Mike Tomlin completely. We never really thought for one second that there was intentionality there personally,” he said.
Steelers safety Ryan Clark said the idea that the Steelers could lose draft picks in this situation was “stupid.”
Asked if it was fair for the league to leave the punishment open, he said, “It’s not supposed to be fair.”
“Roger Goodell. When has he been fair?” he said.
Clark said he applauded how Tomlin dealt with the situation.
“He accepted responsibility for it. He understands the wrong that he did and you like a man that accepts things and is accountable for his actions,” he said. “We all just want to be able to move on from it.”
Although Tomlin apologized for his actions Tuesday, he continued to maintain that he had no intention of affecting Jones’ return.
Tomlin on Tuesday devoted the first 20 minutes of his weekly news conference to the play in which the Jones might have scored a touchdown had he not shifted direction because Tomlin’s right foot was on the field.
“I think for him it was to not run from it, to not seem like he was being standoffish about the situation, accept it as a head coach and as a man,” Clark said. “I think that’s the reason he answered so many questions.”
On Tuesday, Tomlin struck a conciliatory tone — and pretty much executed an about-face from his comments after the Steelers’ 22-20 loss last week, when he said he was in the white stripes that separate the sideline from the field because other coaches do the same thing.
“I can’t be in that space and I was, so I take full responsibility for that,” Tomlin said Tuesday. “It’s an inexcusable blunder on my part. I understand with my position comes the charge of preserving and protecting the integrity of the game of football, and I think probably my biggest error on Thursday night is not realizing that play jeopardized the integrity of the game from a perception standpoint.”
Tomlin said he’d communicated several times with Goodell and that he spoke with the NFL commissioner Monday as well as with Ray Anderson, the league’s senior vice president of football operations.
Wednesday’s discipline was issued by Anderson.
Harbaugh was asked Monday whether Tomlin, who is the most recent addition to the league’s competition committee, should be held to a higher standard.
“I think everybody should be held to a higher standard,” Harbaugh said. “We’re in the National Football League. No matter what the issue, I know every coach in this league believes that certainly. So, I’ll leave it at that.”
ESPN.com Steelers reporter Scott Brown and Ravens reporter Jamison Hensley contributed to this report.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Last March, Syracuse shut down Indiana in the NCAA tournament with coach Jim Boeheim’s signature 2-3 zone defense.
Different season, same result for the Hoosiers.
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“Because it’s Indiana, it’s kind of like a rivalry, and they’re a really good team,” said Cooney, who scored 21 points. “We wanted to come out and prove to everyone that we’re a good team.”
Syracuse, fresh from winning the Maui Invitational, registered seven blocked shots, 10 steals and matched the nation’s top team on the glass with 29 rebounds with just a 12-11 deficit on the offensive glass. Indiana shot 15 of 41 (36.6 percent) and was 6 of 13 from the field in the second half in getting outscored 36-23.
“We finally got our offense going a little bit, made a couple of baskets, but our defense was really the difference for the first time this year,” Boeheim said. “Coming back from Hawaii, I thought the way everybody held their legs was pretty good. Our energy level was pretty good.”
So, too, was that of the crowd of 26,414, whose deafening roars in the second half rocked the Carrier Dome as the Orange assumed control.
“We just get up for these games,” Ennis said.
Syracuse (8-0) has won 46 straight nonconference games at home, and there was no love lost in this rematch from last season’s East Regional semifinal won handily by the Orange. Indiana was called for two flagrant fouls Tuesday, the second coming in the second half as the game was slipping away.
Syracuse used a 25-4 run to break open a tie game after holding just a 33-29 halftime lead despite scoring the game’s first 10 points.
“The first three, four possessions. I’m not a big believer in the first 5 minutes, but this one was,” Indiana coach Tom Crean said. “This is one of those games where the first few possessions were going to be absolutely crucial in the second half, and they were. And it totally went the other way. I’m unbelievably disappointed in the lack of fight in the second half.”
The youthful Hoosiers (6-2) had only lost, 59-58, to No. 12 Connecticut at Madison Square Garden in the championship game of the 2K Sports Classic Benefiting Wounded Warrior Project.
After Indiana’s Noah Vonleh tied it at 33-all early in the second half, Syracuse went on a 12-0 run.
Dajuan Coleman started the run with a putback and Cooney followed with a steal and 3-pointer, then went 3 of 3 from the free throw line after being fouled on another 3-point attempt.
C.J. Fair‘s driving layup with 13:18 gave the Orange a 45-33 lead. Ennis had three steals during the spurt and the Orange forced the Hoosiers into a shot-clock violation as they could muster nothing offensively.
“We had a stretch where we had a lot of turnovers,” said Indiana guard Yogi Farrell. “We were very quiet. Maybe some guys didn’t believe the game was winnable.”
Fair finished with 15 points but had to sit 5 minutes in the second half after picking up his fourth foul, one of four Syracuse players who finished the game with four.
Vonleh had 17 points for the Hoosiers, 13 from the free throw line, and Ferrell added 12 points, only three in the second half — a 3-pointer with 1:59 remaining.
The first-ever meeting between Indiana and Syracuse was for the 1987 national championship, and Indiana won 74-73 on a baseline jumper by Keith Smart with 4 seconds left. Boeheim said he never got over that loss until he won the 2003 national championship with Carmelo Anthony, and he’s been perfect against Indiana since, winning five straight.
In March the Hoosiers were like most of the nonconference teams on the Syracuse schedule, not used to seeing Boeheim’s trademark 2-3 zone, and it showed right from the outset. The team that finished third in the country last season in scoring at 79.5 points per game while shooting 48.6 percent had no answer for the zone and lost 61-50 as Syracuse limited the top-seeded Hoosiers to their lowest output of the season while forcing 19 turnovers and blocking 10 shots.
The lineups have changed for both teams, but that zone is still OK.
Indiana came in leading the nation averaging 50.3 rebounds a game and in rebound margin at plus-18.
Indiana was fifth in field goal percentage defense (35.1) and the Orange shot 51.1 percent (24 of 47).
Indiana, which trailed 10-0 to start the game, went on a 15-5 run over a span of about 3 minutes late in the opening half to take its first lead, going 5 for 5 from the free throw line. A three-point play by Will Sheehey and two 3s from the top of the key by Ferrell, the second as the shot clock was about to expire, gave Indiana a 27-26 lead with 3:28 left.
“The second half we just got away from what we were doing in the first half,” Vonleh said.
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A Somali man who secretly pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in New York two years ago continues to provide information to the US government in what officials describe as an “intelligence watershed”, the Guardian has learned.
Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame has yet to be sentenced and transferred to federal prison for his inevitable incarceration, something lawyers say is rare so long after pleading guilty.
But Warsame’s extended co-operation, confirmed to the Guardian by his lawyers, helps underscore why US officials consider his bizarre saga a potential template for counter-terrorism that relies less on targeted killings and more on captures, as Barack Obama pledged in May. At least one recent capture operation in Libya appears modeled on Warsame.
“Mr Warsame is co-operating with the US government and as is standard in all co-operation agreements, he will not be sentenced until the government has decided it no longer requires his assistance,” Priya Chaudhry, one of Warsame’s lawyers, said.
The Justice Department would not answer questions about the nature of the information Warsame continues to provide. But legal analysts and former counter-terrorism officials say it can span the gamut from intelligence about the mutations in the al-Qaida affiliate network to testimony against specific terrorism defendants.
“Someone with his level of access would have information on the details and nuances of the overall structure and that of some of the al-Shabaab branches and offshoots,” said Robert McFadden, a former terrorism investigator with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service.
“In a carefully calibrated manner, he might help in explaining – and perhaps validating – recent past and current intelligence the US and allies are looking at.”
Warsame is unlike any of the hundreds of suspected or convicted terrorists captured by either the US military or law enforcement. In April 2011, US special operations forces intercepted him at sea as he attempted to return to Somalia from Yemen. With the Obama administration unwilling to add to the detainee population at Guantánamo Bay, Warsame spent over two months in the brig of the USS Boxer, the first known case of a naval ship being repurposed for prolonged detention and interrogation.
Warsame was interrogated aboard the Boxer, performed by an FBI-led team of specialists, before being Mirandized and questioned by a so-called “clean team”, which extracted information to be used against him in his legal proceedings.
Extreme secrecy has characterized the Warsame case from the start. His stay aboard the Boxer was a secret until Warsame arrived in a New York jail and the Justice Department announced his indictment on nine terrorism-related counts in July 2011. Nearly all his court transcripts and trial records are sealed to the public. Warsame’s lawyers have declined to give additional information about their client, citing court-mandated gag orders.
Nearly as soon as Warsame’s case became public, US officials described the information he provided as majorly significant, covering the activities of al-Qaida and al-Shabaab in Yemen and the Horn of Africa, as well as connections between the two organizations and their operatives.
Officials have said Warsame met with Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen who became a top al-Qaida propagandist. Awlaki was killed six months after Warsame’s capture after a years-long hunt, although it is unknown whether or to what degree Warsame played a role in the September 2011 strike that killed Awlaki.
The public heard little about Warsame between his indictment and March 2013, when Preet Bhahara, the US attorney for the southern district of New York, announced that Warsame had secretly pled guilty in December 2011 on charges including the provision of material support to al-Shabaab and al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula; using explosives and firearms; and “receiving military-type training from a foreign terrorist organization”.
The maximum and minimum sentences carried by the charges to which Warsame pled guilty were the same: life imprisonment.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Warsame was to “truthfully disclose all information with respect to the activities of himself and others concerning all matters about which this office inquires of him, including all foreign intelligence known to him, which information can be used for any purpose.”
The US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York declined to comment beyond referring to Bharara’s statement announcing Warsame’s plea, which said Warsame yielded an “intelligence watershed”.
Dean Boyd, a former Justice Department spokesman now with the CIA, told CNN in March that the US was making “active use” of Warsame’s intelligence, and that his “co-operation has been and continues to be enormously valuable.”
However accidental or rare Warsame’s circumstances are, the case is seen within the Obama administration as a wild success, proving the disputed political point that criminal prosecutions do not jeopardize the active collection of sensitive intelligence.
In October, US forces captured Abu Anas al-Liby off the streets of Tripoli and sent him via navy ship to New York to stand trial for his alleged role in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania that killed more than 220 people. Though Liby’s case differed from Warsame’s in some respects – the US announced that it had happened the weekend it occurred instead of keeping it hidden until Liby reached New York – legal experts noted its similarity to the Somali informant’s.
“The United States appears to be following the hybrid approach to counter-terrorism developed in the case of Ahmed Abdulkadir Warsame,” former air force colonel and Guantánamo defense lawyer David Frakt wrote shortly after Liby’s capture.
Frakt called the Warsame model “an excellent example of how military, intelligence and law enforcement assets can be utilized to efficiently remove a terrorist threat from circulation in a legally supportable way while still eliciting valuable intelligence, and is a good template for the United States to follow in Liby’s case.”
Rare as it is for an admitted terrorist to have his sentencing deferred as he co-operates with the government, it is not unprecedented. L’Houssaine Kerchtou, one of al-Qaida’s earliest members, pleaded guilty to a terrorism charge in 2000, testified at another terrorism trial as late as 2010, and has yet to be sentenced.
Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham University Law School’s Center on National Security, said the Warsame case demonstrates how prosecutors are expanding the boundaries of the law for counter-terrorism – partially to show that civilian legal structures are an effective alternative to military detention and interrogation.
“The law is flexible enough and elastic enough to allow this,” Greenberg said.
“You’re beginning to see the way the system is adapting to get the kind of intelligence in a detention situation – albeit in a shorter period of time – that was the original premise for Guantánamo.”